Dr. Oscar A. Thorup: One of UA College of Medicine's Founders Dies
Oscar A. Thorup Jr., MD, one of the original founders of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, died after a long illness and courageous battle, Oct. 21, at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Va.
In 1966, Dr. Thorup joined the UA's future medical school as professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine. Working with Merlin K. "Monte" DuVal, MD, and Philip Krutsch, MD, they formed a three-man planning team to develop the UA College of Medicine. Over the next four years, they worked closely with architects while concurrently developing the curriculum for the incoming medical students.
Recalling his first meeting with Dr. Thorup, Dr. DuVal notes, "Starting a medical school from scratch didn't seem like a big deal when I said I'd do it, but once I had accepted the invitation -- and actually arrived on the scene - I knew I was over my head. That is, until I met Oscar Thorup. It was almost 40 years ago. I was looking for a really good internist, broadly oriented, and ready to set a tone for the institution we were developing. My list of candidates was strong but they all paled once I had met Oscar. My problem was how to persuade him to leave his beloved Charlottesville. Fortunately, he rose to the challenge and moved to Arizona.
"He was superb. Beyond the support and reassurance he gave to me, he recruited a winning team, helped recruit other department heads and faculty members and gave freely of his time and energy to his newly adopted community. But Oscar was more than that. I've seen him disappointed, but never angry; frustrated but never intemperate, anguished but never depressed. When he entered a room he lit it up in a way that GE would envy. His optimism and good cheer, like his laugh, were infectious, and his enthusiasm never flagged."
During his nine years in Tucson, Dr. Thorup served on many civic committees, including the Hospital Planning Council for Greater Tucson, the Arizona Heart Association, the Southern Arizona Heart Association, and the Pima County Medical Society. He served on the board of directors of the local chapter of the American Red Cross and as chairman of the Planning and Allocation Committee of the Tucson Community Council (United Way). Additionally, Dr. Thorup held several leadership positions on the Tucson Health Planning Council (board member, executive committee, and president).
Born March 12, 1922, in Washington, D.C., he was the son of Pattie Walter Creecy and Oscar A. Thorup. He received his BA from the University of Virginia and graduated from U.Va. Medical School in 1946. He interned at Queen's Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, and spent two years in the Army Medical Corps at Tripler General Hospital in Hawaii as assistant chief of the Medical Service.
In 1949, Dr. Thorup returned to the University of Virginia where he spent the next four years in post-graduate training in internal medicine. He spent an additional year with Dr. Louis Welt as a research fellow at the University of North Carolina working on problems of renal function, electrolyte balance, and metabolism.
Dr. Thorup joined the faculty of the U.Va. School of Medicine in 1953. He worked in the Dean's office and served as instructor in internal medicine and head of the Teachers Preventorium. In 1955, as a Markle Scholar in Medical Sciences, Dr. Thorup began working with Dr. Byrd S. Leavell in hematology and in 1958, he was granted a one-year sabbatical to work with Dr. R.G. MacFarlane and Dr. Alan Sharp at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, England. Dr. Thorup's research there focused on blood coagulation and a continuation of his studies of abnormal hemoglobin.
Prior to his return to the university, Dr. Thorup carried out a study of medical schools in Scandinavia as to the appropriateness of a student exchange program with U.Va. medical school. His enthusiastic report spurred the program's development over the next several years. In 1959, as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow, Dr. Thorup was made associate professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine and served as director of Hematology Training as well as physician-in-charge of the Hematology Clinic.
During his tenure at the UA College of Medicine, Dr. Thorup spent a second sabbatical in Oxford, England in 1972, with Dr. Alan Sharp, again focusing on the problems of blood coagulation. Upon his return to Arizona, he resumed his post as chairman of the Department of Medicine.
In 1974, Dr. Thorup was invited to initiate a new program in continuing education at the University of Virginia. He was made director of the Program of Human Biology and Society, and together with Dr. James Childress began a new medical ethics program. Dr. Thorup also headed the Medical Center Hour, the medical school's weekly public conference on current cultural and ethical issues related to health care. Many of these programs were subsequently published as articles in PHAROS. Dr. Thorup retired in 1989, as Professor Emeritus of Medicine.
Dr. Thorup co-authored five editions of Clinical Hematology with Dr. Byrd S. Leavell and authored numerous articles published in a variety of medical and scientific journals. Dr. Thorup was particularly interested in Thomas Jefferson and spent many years researching and writing about his life and interest in medicine.
Dr. Thorup is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Barbara Turnbull Thorup. In addition to his wife, Dr. Thorup is survived by three children, daughter Cathryn Lynn Thorup and Linda Robertson; daughter Todd Thorup Thornton and her husband, James Thornton, and their two children Schuyler Todd and James Miller; and son Matthew Schuyler Thorup and his wife, Noemi Cecilia Damonte, and their two children, Natalia Raisa and Santiago Oscar; his brother, Kent Davis Thorup and his wife, Shirley; three nieces; two nephews; three grand-nieces; and his sister-in-law, Patricia Schuyler Alexander and her husband, Pete Alexander, and their four daughters.